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©2016 Armand Ensanian

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The Bobber

October 22, 2016

 

Many cruisers, like this pre-war Knucklehead, were “bobbed” by their owners. The concept came from racers lightening their bikes by cutting off sections of the rear fender and eliminating the one on front. They called these 'bob jobs." Racing in the United States in the 1930s was starting to gain real public interest as more and more major motorcycle events were being hosted. A real boost came with the AMA’s introduction of Class C racing in 1933. It allowed production (stock) motorcycles on the track. This was to encourage racing during a time when factory teams were dwindling. The Great Depression had taken its toll, and Class A racing (using purpose built racing bikes) was at an all-time low. Few could afford the expense of building one-off racers and hiring talent to ride them. Class B racing, allowing amateurs to race modified machines, wasn’t doing much better. Modifications cost money. Few could afford it. Class C racing however gave a lot of amateur racers an opportunity to compete on a national scale. They would often arrive at the track on the very bike they would be racing. Headlights and front fenders were removed while rear fenders were “bobbed” in an effort to reduce overall weight. Sheet metal on bikes was heavy in those days. No cheap plastic fenders back then. Mile-long horse racing tracks became home to regular weekend events throughout the country. Designers and bike makers today often emulate bobbers. Triumph's 2017 Bobber is a perfect example of that. Harley-Davidson has had bobbers in their line for years. Further cutting and “chopping” off of unnecessary weight and adding stylistic cues, such as upswept mufflers, and extended forks, resulted in the “chopper.”

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